Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha says Guyana has secured additional markets for rice exports, and with the interventions made in the industry since August, plans to double production and increase export over five years can be realised.
The two European destinations, Hungary and Latvia, together received some 250 metric tonnes of white rice last year.
The Minister said with the recent exports to the Caribbean, there are indications that more persons are interested in Guyana’s rice. To this end, the Government is investing heavily to ensure there is sufficient rice for new markets.
Additionally, with the push for public-private partnerships, the Ministry is currently collaborating with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to examine the possibility of producing a zinc candidate biofortified rice variety.
Minister Mustapha relayed that the project, which is currently ongoing at the Burma Rice Research Station in Region Five, could allow Guyana to access preferential prices for rice. It was previously reported that 4,650 farmers nationwide and thousands more in CARICOM are expected to benefit from this project.
Last October, Minister Mustapha launched the GRDB 16 rice variety for cultivation. The GRDB 16 produces much better yields, which is set between 30 to 60 bags per acre. This variety can see farmers producing up to 9.5 tonnes of paddy per hectare.
“Rice is the Government’s business and we will work to see the industry flourish. We assessed the rice industry and found that our rice farmers were enduring many challenges.
“Farmers were required to pay increased land and drainage and irrigation fees, especially those in Region Five. That Region is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Guyana, producing 43 per cent of national rice production. This has placed the farmers, especially the rice farmers, under severe duress over the past years,” he said.
As of October 1, 2020, the PPP/C Government reversed the drainage and irrigation charges imposed by the Coalition government to their original rates. The Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary-Agriculture Development Authority (MMA/ADA) rates were decreased from $15,000 per acre to $3,500 per acre. This single measure immediately left an average of $1.3 billion in the hands of farmers there.
Minister Mustapha noted that even though the previous Government had increased the fees, the drainage and irrigation structures and access dams were not maintained. He said the neglect of infrastructure by the APNU/AFC administration was unconscionable and caused the rice farmers unnecessary hardships.
The Minister noted that since August 2020, the MMA-ADA was able to repair six bridges and three sluices, saving about 96,000 acres of rice from rot. Additionally, the MMA-ADA was able to grade and maintain 200 miles of dams and access roads. The Scheme also cleaned over 60 miles of secondary drainage. The cleaning and maintenance of 608 miles canals were also done per month. (DPI)